Today in Rome and in England, something momentous occurred. In accordance with the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Holy See created a new canonical structure in England and Wales for Anglicans who want to be Catholics. It is called a Personal Ordinariate, and it is essentially a non-territorial diocese which allows Anglicans who become Catholics to preserve their Anglican parochial, liturgical, and devotional identity in the Catholic Church. The Ordinariate is named for the Mother of God as she is venerated at the ancient English shrine of Walsingham, and it has been placed under the heavenly patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman, the Anglican priest who became a Catholic and then a priest and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church in the mid 19th century.
This is a bold move on the part of Pope Benedict XVI. In a single stroke, Benedict has broken the logjam of official ecumenical conversations which began with such promise in the 1960's but which had lately become a moribund joke of official niceties being exchanged to no end except continuing the never-ending conversation. Moreover, if Anglican Christianity ever had a genuine claim (and it is doubtful that it ever did) to being something other than simple Protestantism in Catholic drag, that claim has long since been abandoned by almost every Anglican everywhere, starting with the hierarchy of the Church of England. The apostasy from Christian faith and life which is making shipwreck of Anglicanism throughout the First World is yet another reason for serious Christians within the Anglican Communion to find their true and lasting home in the Church from which their ancestors were separated in the 16th century. And now Pope Benedict XVI has provided the means for them to do so. Look for other ordinariates to be established in the United States, Canada, Australia and perhaps elsewhere in the coming months.